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The #1 Way to Ensure a Stress-Free, Love-Filled Wedding Day | Doing a First Look

Jul 11, 2017


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groom sees bride for first time
I’m the girl that won the title of “Most Unique” for her high-school superlatives…I only tell you this embarrassing detail about me to drive home the fact that I am anything but traditional. Even still, on my wedding day I could NOT be convinced to do a First Look. There was no way I was seeing my groom before the ceremony. I was doing it the traditional way, and you couldn’t make me change my mind.
2 years later and I have finally seen the light. I’m writing this blog post in the hopes that you will see the light too, and BEFORE your wedding day—not two years after.
The number 1 way to ensure a stress-free, love-filled wedding day is to do a first look. Yes, there are so many other things you can do to help your wedding day be stress-free and full of love, but I really believe this one thing will make the biggest difference of them all. 
 bride and groom read notes so sweet
I want to start by saying I would never, ever pressure you, or any of my couples, to do something you don’t want to do. If you decide that a first look is not for you (and many couples do), I won’t pressure you, or hate you, or be upset with you, or anything even close to that. I will show up on your wedding day and photograph you walking down the aisle like nobody has ever photographed someone walking down the aisle before! In all seriousness, I 100% want you to be confident in your decision to do a first look or to not do a first look—I just want you to have a chance to REALLY consider the option of doing one because there are a multitude of benefits. So keep on reading, friend!


First—what is a first look? When someone says “first look,” they’re generally referring to the bride and groom seeing each other before the ceremony on their wedding day. In the past, the groom waited to see his bride on the wedding day until she walked down the aisle. Where did this “tradition” come from? It originated with arranged marriages. When a couple was chosen for one another, they weren’t allowed to see each other until the wedding ceremony so that they wouldn’t have a chance to back out if they didn’t approve of how the other looked or who they were…not exactly a romantic origin! Even though we marry for love in today’s society, many people decide to still uphold this tradition. However, more and more brides are deciding that they want to spend more time with their grooms on their wedding day, which means seeing each other before the ceremony. I have about 100 reasons for why I believe doing a first look is a great option, but I’ll keep it short and give you my top 3. The top 3 reasons that will prove how stress-free, and so much more love-filled your wedding day will be by doing a first look.


Here is a comparison of an average wedding-day timeline with a first look and without a first look:
doing a first look wedding timeline


With a first look you:

1. Get to enjoy more of your wedding day together (6.5 total hours instead of 3.5)

Take a look at the above two timelines and look at how much time you’ll actually be spending together on your wedding day. It’s sad when you realize you may only spend 3 and a half hours together on your WEDDING DAY. This was something I didn’t realize when we were planning out our wedding. And guess what?! The actual day of your wedding, for most people, is kind of boring. You’ll get your hair and makeup done…and then what? You hang out until it’s time for pictures. I remember sitting there on my wedding day feeling like I should be doing something. But no one would let me help decorate or do anything because I was supposed to be relaxing. If I would have done a First Look, I could have been hanging out with my best friend all day! (Not that hanging with my girls wasn’t fun—because it absolutely was—but it would have been nice to have Tyler there too.)

2. You will get to your reception faster (which means more time with guests, and enjoying the actual party)

I can’t stress this one enough!! The party is the best part!! I wish I could have a reception every weekend. No amount of time would have been long enough—dancing with all of my closest friends and family is literally the most fun thing I could ever want to do. If we would have done a First Look, that would have been extra hours of fun on the dance floor.

3. Less time spent overall on photos and LESS STRESS on family portraits

This is the bullet-point reason that should convince you to change your mind (if nothing else). It will be hard for me to really explain this, because I don’t think you’ll really understand unless you’ve lived it, but family formals is SO STRESSFUL if you don’t do a First Look. At every. single. wedding. where couples choose not to do a First Look. It’s just a fact. I am the type of person who handles stress very well (and even do my best work under stress sometimes), and MAN is it stressful getting through family formals. Here’s why: When you don’t do a First Look almost all of family portraits need to be done after the ceremony. The LAST thing anyone wants to do after a wedding ceremony is listen to a coordinator fuss at family to gather and pay attention, or a photographer begging people to squeeze in closer, take off their sunglasses, smile bigger, jump in and out of photos, etc. etc. Because after this huge task is finally done, you STILL don’t get to go to the reception. We still have to do bridal party portraits (which always gets cut short), AND the most important—bride and groom portraits. And by that point in the day, you are DONE with pictures. It absolutely breaks my heart when we get to this point in the day and neither you or the groom want to take photos. Even my brides who LOVE and cherish photos and are so excited about their photos, are so done with photos by this point in the day, and it is so disheartening. Because this is most likely your only “alone” time on your wedding day, and I do everything I can to make you feel happy, and in love, and not rushed. But that’s so hard to do when in the back of your mind, you know it’s been an hour since your ceremony and your guests are waiting on you. When you do a First Look, you can go straight to the reception after the ceremony—get that train bustled, veil off, and head in for your first dances. When we can do all the photos before the ceremony, the rest of the day can be so much more relaxed, and it’s just awesome.


Bride’s always say to me: “But I just really want him to see me for the first time when I walk down the aisle.” Most brides hope that their groom will cry, or have an awe-worthy reaction, but friends—most grooms (brides too) get so nervous standing in a room full of 200 people. The pressure is real! That reaction will be there whether you do a first look or not. Let me use my own wedding day as an example:


Tyler and I decided not to do a first look because I wanted that wow-factor of walking down the aisle, and boy did I get it! That was the best moment of my entire life. I didn’t expect him to cry at all, and when I saw him standing at the end of that aisle, he was just the cutest thing I had ever seen in my life, and he had huge alligator tears rolling down his face. If this story was a cartoon, I would have melted to the floor. Yes—that moment was more special than I ever even hoped it could be. But now when I look back, I realize that only a small portion of our wedding day was spent together. (I remember getting to the hotel room after and thinking, “Wait, we barely even hung out today and it’s already over?!”) And I think about how nervous he was to be standing in front of all those people, and I wonder what his reaction would have been if he had seen me for the first time if we were alone. To have had that perfect moment in a setting where we could be alone, and I could hug him, and talk to him, and have him tell me what he was thinking…now THAT moment would have been good. Because when I got to the end of the aisle, I couldn’t say a word. I definitely couldn’t kiss him. All I wanted to do was to be with him. That wasn’t something I would have ever thought about before it actually happened to me. I didn’t realize how special it could have been if he would have seen me alone for the first time on our wedding day. I know that if we had done a first look, that walk down the aisle would still have been just as special. Because that was it. That was the moment. The moment we were doing it—we were getting married, and everyone was there to watch and witness. I could have had more than one special moment on my wedding day, and I’m so bummed I didn’t take advantage of it.


groom wiping tear away


So tell me—what are your thoughts? Do you regret not doing a first look? I’ve never heard anyone say they regretted doing a first look (are there even any cons?!)—let me know what you think in the comments below!

My passion is in documenting the lives of our families well (mine and yours), and teaching you how to do it too. Follow along as I share photography tips, inspiration, and beautiful portraits.

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  1. Brittany says:

    This helped us out tremendously! We were 50/50 on this topic. We will be doing a first look! Thank you sooo much for posting this!!

  2. Jessica Cypress says:

    Yes!!!! Definitely 100% would do the first look a million times again! First, what a wonderful moment between us, to be the only ones there (besides fabulous Karly of course ) during that special time. The first time we saw each other was fully about us and not everyone watching us!
    Also, I am a wedding cryer. I have been to (numerous!) weddings where I literally didn’t know the bride or groom and bawled as the bride walked down the aisle. So, of course, I was fully expecting to cry as I made that same walk down the aisle. But… I got all the tears out the first time I saw my groom! That meant, shockingly, I held it together the entire ceremony without a single tear! I did NOT want to break down as I said my vows, so this was a huge surprise and blessing that I know came because we had done that first look.
    Finally, just as you highlighted, what a stress-free day we had! Not only did we get to walk into the reception right after our guests, but we got to hang out together ALL day! It took all the pressure off of the day so we could actually enjoy every single second of it! I would definitely recommend the first look to everyone who is getting married!

    • karly says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience! <3 It really was special, and one of my least stressful weddings ever!

  3. […] the SWEETEST first look you’ve ever seen in your life?! I always love it when couples do a first look because it makes the day a lot less stressful, and the couple gets to spend more time together on […]

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